College is Not a Challenge

Op-Ed: Listen up, college students. You don’t ‘get’ a grade. You have to earn it.

A recent post from the Chronicle of Higher Education (“How to Make Sure You Are Getting the Most Out of Your College Experience”) describes a survey of students who graduate with an associate’s degree.

When asked about their experience, the overwhelming majority (62 percent) reported that they had no trouble completing the entire curriculum. Another 31 percent reported an average of six hours per week reading but not doing any college-level work in that time.

A third (33 percent) said they had a problem completing their courses. A quarter (25 percent) said they were unable to make it through a week of classes. The remaining 3 percent said they needed a lot of help.

Of those who reported difficulties, the degree the students attained was often a factor. In most cases (72 percent), the student was unable to finish the full degree.

Another survey, published in the Chronicle of Higher Education earlier in 2017, examined grade point averages at various degrees. The survey was limited to freshmen and sophomore-level students.

The average GPA at a bachelor’s degree was 3.94. At an associate’s degree, the average GPA was 3.82. At a master’s degree, it was 3.85.

At all degrees, the mean GPA improved over the course of the four-year undergraduate program by a modest 1.17.

Of course, the only grade students receive in college is their final cumulative grade, which they earn each semester. The grades in class are only a measure of their progress and they do not reflect their learning over time. A student still has plenty of opportunities to learn, to make mistakes, to make connections that will help him or her be successful later in life. And college is meant to be an adventure.

A student who is struggling to complete a college course—especially one that is meant to be challenging—should take as many courses as possible. There is no shame in a student having to take a class he or she cannot complete.

A student should not be judged by a single class or grade. Rather, a student should focus on the entire course.

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